Sanitation & hygiene

A clean toilet: a problem for 1/3 of the world population.

Madagaskar © Dieter Telemans
How to wash your hands, I learn it at school - Madagascar © Dieter Telemans

Today, 2.4 billion people live without a basic toilet or latrine. Of these, 1 billion practice open defecation - in copses, fields, rivers or even in the street - which is an open invitation to disease.
Especially children fall ill or die from commonplace diseases such as diarrhoea due to this lack of hygiene. For want of a latrine and privacy, many young girls stop attending school when they reach puberty.

As the world population continues to grow at a fast pace, especially in urban centres with densely populated slums entirely lacking decent toilets or latrines, the worldwide shortage of sanitary facilities becomes ever more acute.The sanitation target of The Millennium Development Goal - to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation - was not met. Nevertheless, substantial progress has been made: since 1990, no less than 1.9 billion people gained permanent access to a toilet or latrine. However, despite these efforts, 2.4 billion people still need to resort to unhygienic facilities or open defecation.

What went wrong?  Toilets and hygiene related education are not priorities on the world political agenda and receive little or no financial support, although access to basic sanitation is a matter of human dignity, equity and safety. It is a human right. Education is essential: people need to understand that unhygienic behaviour inevitably leads to disease. Switching to safe and hygienic sanitary installations and habits immediately reduces child mortality by a factor of three. And simply washing hands with soap reduces the risk of diarrhoea by 47%.

In September 2015 193 Member States of the United Nations approved the Sustainable Development Goals, the SDG's.  SDG 6 pays attention to access to drinking water and basic sanitation, for everyone.